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Virtual Reality Technology Aiming to Revolutionise Air Force Maintenance Training

Virtual reality (VR) technology is changing how aircraft maintainers are training and enhancing their skills at the Dyess Base. C-130J Super Hercules maintainers are experiencing something quite different from hands-on learning.

Two of the aircraft maintenance personnel have put in efforts to transform the VR lab or the 317th Maintenance Group into an immersive and practical training environment. Staff Sgt. Christopher Clinton and Tech. Sgt. Timothy Hogge have worked on the project since 2018. They have collaborated with civilian software developers and created a curriculum for the course to ensure the effectiveness of the lab. The C-130 virtual reality room at the Dyess Air Force Base is now the most expensive in Air Mobility Command.

According to Hogge, the project began from scratch, and efforts are currently being used for two commands. It now has a virtual reality room with an inventive and unique design. The lab currently has 16 stations for training personnel and an attached classroom.

The features of this facility include more than just a cutting-edge environment. Airmen of the 317th have said that the learning curriculum is also quite a crucial aspect of the training process. Clinton and Hogge have offered a training program for orientation and breeding familiarity for ensuring that the lab becomes successful. The curriculum for the training team along with a cutting-edge technologies creates a training space where airmen are able to train and gain qualifications for mission-critical actions.

VR Air Force maintenance training. Image source: airforcetimes

Senior Master Sgt. Ronald Cooney, flight superintendent of the 317th group maintenance operations, expressed that the direct feedback capability of the lab that instructors can utilise is one of its key features. According to him, the feature is useful for measuring the performance of students and their learning progress depending on their grasp over important training aspects. Currently, there are plans for offering training to about 250 aircraft maintainers ever year with the new lab setup.

The training lab offers several advantages over more convenient training locations and is a controlled learning environment for the airmen. Factors, such as temperature are controlled. The lab also enables maintainers to preserve their expertise without having an impact on the availability of aircraft. This improves the speed of maintenance training.

Airman 1st Class David Farrell, a student of the lab and hydraulic systems apprentice of the 317th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, expressed that the course offers a realistic experience. According to Farrell, the training does not take away from the experience of being within C-130 learning, due to the absence of distractions.

The lab is growing currently and will start using immersive computer software for maintenance students in July. They can use the same to immerse themselves within the confines of the Rolls Royce engines that are under the hood of the C-130J aircraft.

The team is discovering new ways of making VR training effective for the maintainers, using cutting-edge software or enhanced curriculum. The lab is amongst the continuing efforts of the Air Force to implement AR and VR training capabilities for maintenance personnel.

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